Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Jim Boeheim has followed this St. John’s team and believes they have what it takes to make a run in the NCAA Tournament.
“I absolutely think they’re going to be a tournament team,” the Syracuse coach told SNY.tv in advance of Sunday’s game between No. 2 Syracuse and St. John’s at Madison Square Garden. “They’ve got good inside presence. They’ve got really good guard play. They don’t really have a weakness.
“They got a good team and it wouldn’t surprise me if they weren’t a good tournament team at the end of the year.”
The unbeaten Orange (9-0) and the Red Storm (6-2) no longer share the Big East Conference, but that hasn’t stopped Boeheim from watching their core group progress.
“St. Johns has got more good players than most [teams],” Boeheim said. “When you look at their team they got a lottery pick, I think [JaKarr] Sampson could be. They got a guard as good as anybody, [D’Angelo] Harrison. [Chris] Obekpa [is] the best shot-blocker in the country. And these other guys are good, too.”
After whipping up on Fordham by the count of 104-58 last Saturday at the Garden, a few St. John’s fans began chanting, “We want ‘Cuse.”
Now they get their wish.
“It’s a great opportunity since they are the No. 2 team in the country,” St. John’s junior guard Phil Greene IV said. “If we win, it will be good for our resume for the NCAA Tournament. It would be a big win for the University so I can’t wait. Sunday will be a great game. We are going to let our play do the talking.”
The Johnnies last made the NCAAs in 2011, but coach Steve Lavin was using Norm Roberts’ players during that season.
Now, Lavin has a roster comprised entirely of his players and there are high expectations for the Johnnies this March.
“They’ve been pumping these guys for a couple years now and I think they’re very talented kids who have gotten mature and are just much more understanding of the college game,” Boeheim said. “They’re much more experienced players and they’re playing with a lot of confidence now.”
The two teams will play next year at the Carrier Dome, but Boeheim said he expected the two teams to continue their rivalry beyond that.
“Yeah, I would think so,” he said. “We’re playing them for two years and I don’t see any reason we won’t continue to play.”
BRISCOE TO ATTEND GAMEIsaiah Briscoe was invited by St. John’s to attend the game.
The 2015 Roselle (N.J.) Catholic guard is being recruited by both schools, as well as Arizona, Florida, Seton Hall, Rutgers and others.
“The coaching staff is real,” Briscoe told SNY.tv after visiting St. John’s for Midnight Madness in October. “They don’t just tell you what you want to hear. And with them, everything isn’t about basketball.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.